Addressing the current upswing of humanities-based, scientific and environmental arts and attention in relation to the recent proposition that we have entered a new human-driven epoch called the Anthropocene, this new book by cultural critic and art historian T.J. Demos presents a critical overview of that thesis, and its limitations in conceptualisation and in practice.
Looking at multiple examples of visual culture — including popular science websites, remote sensing and SatNav imagery, photographic documentation, eco-activist mobilizations, and experimental art projects — the book argues that the Anthropocene terminology works ideologically in support ofneoliberalism’s financialization of nature, anthropocentrism’s political economy, and the endorsement of geoengineering as the preferred — but likely disastrous — method of addressing climate change, constituting further modes of environmental violence.
To democratise decisions about the world’s near future, Demos proposes that we urgently need to subject the Anthropocene thesis to critical scrutiny and develop creative alternatives in our precarious present — which is the ultimate goal of Against the Anthropocene.
This program is presented on the occasion of the international conference accompanying the 2016-2018 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics at The New School on Nov. 3 and 4.
“Against the Anthropocene is much more than simply ‘against.’ In this short, accessible, and fiercely written book, T. J. Demos shows how visual culture is implicated in the Anthropocene’s occlusions as well as a resource for conceptualizing—and mobilizing for—emancipatory alternatives. Deftly weaving together environmental accounts, scholarly arguments, and activist mobilizations, Demos makes an impassioned argument for new modes of thinking and representing the global environmental crisis that refuse the old fictions of the ‘social’ and the ‘natural.’ It is a book that shows how visual culture matters in our struggle for a just and livable future.”
—Jason W. Moore, Associate Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University
T.J. Demos is Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Founder and Director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. He writes widely on the intersection of contemporary art, global politics, and ecology and is the author of Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology(Sternberg Press, 2016); The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013) and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art(Sternberg Press, 2013). A member of the editorial boards of Third Text and Grey Room, Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and organised Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014.
Laura Kurgan is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where she directs the Center for Spatial Research. She is the author of Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics (Zone Books, 2013). Her work explores things ranging from digital mapping technologies to the ethics and politics of mapping, and the art, science and visualization of data. From 2004 - 2015, she founded and directed the Spatial Information Design Lab at GSAPP. Her work has appeared at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Whitney Altria, MACBa Barcelona, the ZKM in Karlsruhe, and the Museum of Modern Art. She was the winner of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship in 2009.
Yates Mckee is an art critic and PhD student at CUNY Graduate Center. His work has appeared in publications including October, Grey Room, e-flux journal, and The Nation, and he is the author of Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition (Verso 2016). He is also a member of the art collective MTL+ and a contributor to Decolonize This Place, known for its residency at Artists Space last fall, and the recent Anti-Columbus Day Tour at the American Museum of Natural History.